By Momodou Jarju
The Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Fafa Sanyang, has revealed to lawmakers that the Gambia Angola and China Holding (GACH) Company has paid slightly above 649 thousand United States Dollars to the Gambia Government as royalty since its issuance of license in 2017.
This amount is more than thirty-three million Gambian dalasis (D33, 099, 053.04).
Minister Sanyang made the statement on Wednesday in Banjul during the second ordinary session of the national assembly in the 2020 legislative year, while responding to a question raised by the Majority Leader and member for Kombo South, Kebba K. Barrow, on the total amount of money GACH paid to the Government to extract black sand in Sanyang.
In respond, Minister Sanyang said: “Since the issuance of mining license, GACH Company paid a total of $649, 001.04 as royalty for the State for the shipment of almost 15,386.45 metric tons of heavy minerals concentrate.”
Earlier asking on GACH’s operation, Serrekunda lawmaker, Halifa Sallah questioned the minister to explain how much has been derived from the mining of minerals at the original sites of Kartong, Baatakunku and Sanyang by the investors in particular and the State in 2019. He further asked for an explanation on what has been done with the funds accrued.
Responding to the question, Energy Minister Sanyang said Sanyang is the only site being mined as of 2019 and that mining is yet to take place in Kartong and Baatakunku.
He went on: “Net income derived from the shipment of 4,617.85 metric tonnes of heavy minerals concentrate stands at $323, 280 dollars (this about D16, 480, 280.00). In line with license conditions, the royalty of $1,993.93 (D101, 690.43) was paid to the State by GACH which represent 60% of the net income. The State royalty is lodged in an account with the Central Bank under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.”
Brikama North lawmaker, Alagie S. Darboe quizzed the minister to inform the assembly what is holding the commencement of mining in the two aforementioned sites.
In his response, energy minister Sanyang said mining is done sequentially, saying if the first site is not exhausted, the miners cannot abandon that site and go to the other.
“So you have to mine, exhaust and continue,” he added.
Upper Fulladu lawmaker, Dawda Kawsu Jawara, asked the minister to inform them the mechanisms put in place to ensure after the miners exhaust the areas of mining, the land could be reused for agricultural purpose.
Minister Sanyang said they conduct environmental assessment at the beginning and that there are plans to rehabilitate the sites. He further said before the end of the mining, the area would be mapped and plan for its rehabilitation.
“Sometimes when you do the physical assessment at the beginning, at the end it will defer. When we mined Sanyang for example and move out of Sanyang, then we will do assessment and then we work together with other partners. That is the environment agency… and also we consider the market gardeners, then we plan for the rehabilitation,” he said.
Sulayman Saho, Central Badibou lawmaker asked the minister to inform the assembly whether the funds generated from the mining can benefit the communities in question.
In response, the minister said some of the benefits the communities generate from the mining activities include employment and social corporate responsibility- where the company ploughs back to the communities by initiating certain projects in the communities.
“We don’t encourage physical cash because it might create problem. Communities will come up with projects and they (companies) would implement the projects. I think that is going on,” he said.
Brikama South lawmaker, Lamin J. Sanneh, asked the minister how sure is he that the communities are benefiting from the social corporate responsibility he talked about.
The minister said most times communities make demand, requesting assistance on an area, and then the company will help. He added that it is within the general principle that the company provides assistance to communities around the mining site(s).
“When it happens, we get information from the company that we have done A, B, C to a particular community,” he said.
Minister Sanyang was further asked to inform the members how much money was being spent on social corporate responsibility to the community of Sanyang from the amount generated by the government.
He told the members that he doesn’t have that data, however, he said the money the company makes and the royalty paid to the government are not part of the social corporate responsibilities.
“So the company can always give us how much it spent. But I don’t have that figure and we don’t ask for that. I know that corporate social responsibility works with the community. But it is not part of the license that the company should provide this amount to the community,” he said.
Majority Leader Barrow urged the minister to revisit the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure that the community benefits from the activities the miners are embarking on within their communities.
Asked by Wuli East lawmaker, Suwabou Touray, whether the government provides royalty to the community since the company does not, the minister responded in the negative
Speaking further on rehabilitation of sites, Minister Sanyang said rehabilitation is at the expense of the company. But if the company fails, he went on, the Government will take over the burden to rehabilitate the mined areas.
He however noted that social corporate responsibility is between the company and the affected community.
Currently, the minister said there is no clear cut policy to address the issue of social corporate responsibility between the company and communities. However, the minister said there are plans to develop a policy that will provide guidelines on social corporate responsibility.